Wherever you are in the process of launching your political campaign, the importance of a good marketing strategy can’t be understated. Our SpeakEasy Political campaign strategists have put together a list of some of the do’s and don’ts of political campaign marketing to help you achieve the best (and avoid the worst!) practices when it comes to publicizing your campaign.
Looking for more ways to effectively market your political campaign? Check out our series of easy-to-use guides and materials – so you can build a winning political campaign from the ground up.
Do: Invest in good photography
Here’s one of the most important things you could add to your campaign: good pictures. Lots of good pictures. If you are camera shy, you need to get over it. Ask your friend who is really good with a camera to spend an afternoon or two helping you get a good portrait (headshot) and some shots that show you in action. A few with recognizable community landmarks will be helpful, and while you’re at it, get a few family shots too. No shots with wine glasses in your hand, red eyes, buttons, funny hats. You need to look friendly, but people have to take you seriously.
Don’t: Break the bank for campaign merchandise
But here’s a challenge — your supporters may really want those buttons or tee shirts. If it’s not in the budget, consider directing them to a website that will allow them to upload a logo and create their own. If they really want one, they can buy one there and it won’t cost you.
Do: Build a mobile friendly and direct response website
Develop a basic website, and keep it private until you are ready to announce that you’re running. The website must be mobile friendly – remember up to half of voters will view it on their smart phone. It should also reflect one of the most powerful uses of a website – the ability of the readers to respond by joining, volunteering or donating. At a minimum it must have:
- Your bio
- A donation form
- A volunteer form
- An endorsement form
- A disclaimer
You should probably start with a blog function you can use to regularly update your site regularly, which will be important for your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Make sure to link all your social media properties from the home page of your website.
Do: Remember to think regularly about SEO
SEO – search engine optimization – is important in every campaign. Recent studies have shown when voters are considering their choices in an election, the first thing they do is search for information about a political contest online — and good SEO helps make sure they find you rather than one of your opponents.
SEO can get complicated, but there are some basic rules that, if you follow them, will ensure your website has good optimization. First, make sure that everyone you know with an established website relevant at all to your community links back to your website. If the local teacher’s union endorses you, for example, ask them to link to your site too.
Second, publish regularly on your blog. How you headline this content and what subheads you use are important. So if you are running for school board, a headline could be “Why the Teachers Union Endorsed Susan Smith for Oakland School Board.” That will help your rank on search pages when people search for “Oakland School Board” closer to Election Day. You can also have subheads in blogs that are another clue to search engines about what content is important. Remember, don’t be spammy. Don’t buy links. Don’t overcrowd keywords into your content. Just publish interesting and relevant content regularly and make sure everyone who can links back to you.
Randomly distributed flyers, poorly placed lawn signs or worst of all – putting literature under windshield wipers; it doesn’t work. Talking to voters with a compelling message wins campaigns. So, if a sign or handout program fits into your walk and phone program, it can be helpful to very helpful. So=o ahead and add a request for a lawn sign to your script. If someone says they support you, follow up with: would you like to show your support for (better schools, a better city council, etc.) by displaying a sign on your lawn (or window if you are running in a big city)? That works. What doesn’t work is just randomly placing signs, flyers or any other type of litter.
Do: Create a powerful walk piece
What is the one thing you want voters to know about your candidacy? If you can answer that question – your walk piece headline is already written.
Voters are not going to remember ten things about your candidacy. You will be lucky if they remember two or three things about you and why you are running for political office. So keep it short, and simple.
(And remember that point about good pictures. Strong images are the foundation of a powerful walk piece.)
Typically, on one side of your walk piece you will show your headshot and some key and easy to read “bullets” summarizing you and your race. Keep it short, like: “Smith is a teacher supported by parents and teachers!” On the reverse side add a bit more text and try to use an action shot of you with people. Always tell people how to join your campaign, with your website or email address or both.
Remember: you have to say who paid for this piece (that’s what the disclaimer is for) and most jurisdictions even call out how big your disclaimer needs to be. So, don’t forget compliance.
Want more information as a first-time candidate for elected office? Download our e-book designed to walk candidates through the process of running – and winning – their first political campaigns here.